Singapore to end colonial-era ban on sex between men

SINGAPORE
  • Singapore is set to repeal Section 377A of its penal code, a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex between men.
  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the long-awaited move on Sunday, saying he hopes it provides “some relief to gay Singaporeans.”
  • While the repeal was planned and expected, Lee assured the public that “we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage,” which remains reserved for opposite-sex couples.
  • Members of the local LGBTQ-plus community generally welcomed the repeal, but some believe more needs to be done to achieve full equality.

Men in Singapore can soon legally have sex with other men as the Southeast Asian city-state announces its plan to repeal a colonial era law criminalizing the act.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the long-awaited move in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, saying he hopes it provides “some relief to gay Singaporeans.”

“The government will repeal Section 377A and decriminalize sex between men. I believe this is the right thing to do and something that Singaporeans will accept,” Lee said.

Singapore chose to retain Section 377A after winning its independence from Great Britain in 1965. For decades, the law, which sentences convicts for up to two years, has been a lightning rod for gay activists.

But there have been no known convictions for decades. Additionally, the law does not criminalize sex between women and other genders.

While the repeal was planned and expected, Lee assured the public that “we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage.” This means marriage in the country remains reserved between a man and a woman.

It’s unclear when exactly the law will be repealed, but members of the local gay community welcomed the change nonetheless.

“We finally did it, and we’re ecstatic that this discriminatory, antiquated law is finally going to be off the books,” Johnson Ong, an activist, told the BBC. “There’s a sense that maybe it took a little too long, but it had to happen, you know. Today we are very, very happy.”

However, others believe it is not enough.

“It’s just a small, little step. But beyond that, if you’re going to have a family or you want marriage and want to be in Singapore and to be treated equally, that’s not going to happen,” Andre Ling, who is married to an Australian man, told Reuters. “By coming to Singapore, we knew that our marriage certificate will be like a piece of toilet paper.”

In a joint statement, 22 LGBTQ-plus organizations acknowledged the repeal as the “first step on a long road towards full equality.”

“Our immediate priorities in the wake of S377A will be to tackle the areas of discrimination that we continue to face at home, in schools, workplaces, and in housing and health systems,” the statement said.

 

Featured Image via Jnzl’s Photos (CC BY 2.0) / Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore

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